Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Political Conventions: A Story of Nerds, Policy and Alcohol

By: Matthew Rowe

Nerds love conventions. Some of you Millennials out there may not understand, but before the interwebs and social media if you had a niche interest in something and wanted to meet a whole whack of people like you then you went to a convention. From Star Trek to cat fancying, conventions were and still are a great way to mainline your hobby.

Politicos, while cloaking their nerdiness in the lofty language of statecraft are nevertheless enormous geeks. We were the people discussing foreign policy over lunch in the high school caf and not quite understanding why everyone else’s eyes were glazing over. At a convention, you were suddenly face to face with hundreds and sometimes thousands of people just like you who were not only willing to listen to your rants on supply management but who had their own opinions that they were willing to defend to the death…also you’re getting drunk together!

This brings up an important point DO NOT underestimate the importance of alcohol at these events. I used to work for a backbench MP who abstained from alcohol for religious reasons and do you know where he is now? Well actually he’s the Minister of Industry, so bad example but teetotallers are definitely in the minority at these functions. There’s just something about sitting through policy plenaries that drives people to drink and at a political convention there are innumerable opportunities to indulge.

You might be asking yourself “I have nuanced views that run across the political spectrum, which convention is right for me?” To which I would ask, “Do you like to party?” If the answer is yes then your choice is easy. The Liberals!

There is no political movement in this country better at throwing a good party than the Liberal Party of Canada and Liberal conventions are by far the most fun. I mean all conventions have their good and bad moments and all political parties are capable of throwing great events, but only Big Red (hope that catches!) consistently delivers quality entertainment alongside the more serious wonkery.

At leadership conventions your cup runneth over with hospitality suites with free drinks hosted by the candidates. Tequila with Trudeau? Check! Jagerbombs with Joyce Murray?  Line ‘em up!  Need some wine to go with your cheese? I hear Hedy Fry has a nice Pinot Grigio from the Okanagan.

This time around the focus will be on policy and celebrating the fact that they’ve finally snatched back the ring of power but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be suites a plenty.  Haven’t made up your mind on who to select for VP, French? You may not speak the language but that doesn’t mean you can’t carefully consider what each candidate will bring to the table while silently judging them on their beer selection and the quality of the hot hors d’oeuvres.

Conventions also provide a chance to pick up some great political swag. I still have my Bob Rae bandana and that Dion scarf is great on a nippy day. In fact my Maurizio Bevilacqua branded pasta machine still makes the best rigatoni this side of Vaughan.

So if this is your first convention, soak it all in: meet like-minded nerds, talk big thoughts, plan the future of the country but don’t forget to have fun while you do it. Just remember that politics is a lot like booze, enjoy it responsibly but also don’t be surprised if you leave Winnipeg needing a bit of a detox.

Matthew Rowe is a recovering politico who no longer indulges in conventions for professional reasons.